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The Temptation to be a Whiny Little *****

I was watching Master and Commander the other day (good movie) set on a warship during the Napoleonic era. Amongst the many qualities of the film were its apparent realism in its depiction of the time. With this and many such films, one can’t help but notice: history was hardcore. Beneath the frilly jackets, wigs and pantaloons, here we see a group of men who had to wrestle their lives against the elements, whether that be sailing through icy seas without any kind of central heating, or keeping themselves hydrated in blistering heat. And that was during their “down time” when they weren’t having cannon balls hurled through their limbs at a thousand miles hour, covered in wood splinters, only to have said limbs hacked off with a saw without any anaesthetic.

I was watching this during a recent episode in my life when I was suffering through a kind of “break up” (if you can call it that) borne of a misunderstanding with a girl I was speaking to for a while, who I eventually broke things off with. Aside from the “break up” itself the sense of self-pity that lingered was weighted by a sense of anxiety about still being single, without a fiancé or a girlfriend as I approach the age of 30.

There are at least two things to consider in light of this:

Firstly, any sense of hopelessness is blind and completely irrational. Despite what our feely-feels might tell us, such romantic hiccups obviously don’t mean that there is no hope. Not even close.

The other thing it prompted me to consider is: how do I view my own life, as weighted against the lives of all other men? When it comes down to it, what pain of “loss” am I really suffering, and what do I really expect is due to me?

The thought process goes something like this:

You feel disappointed, and so what were you really disappointed by? What do you really expect in life?

Well, I suppose that I expect that I want a good life, and part of that is that I want to find a good woman who can be my partner and who I can form a good and harmonious relationship with, so that she can be the mother of my children… we would be happily married, form a good, loving, stable family, and serve God happily together until we die. And, I would prefer to meet her before I’m “too old”… tomorrow would be nice, but yesterday would be even better.

The thing is, I think I framed these things in my mind as if they are small and simple, as if it is something unusual for men to be left without in their lives…

But if I get out of my own pride-stricken ego for a second and set myself against reality, the return question is: are you fucking serious? How many men do you think actually enjoyed the kind of thing that your heart is looking for?

If I think back to the men on those ships – of which there have been thousands throughout history – how many of them enjoyed the kind of life you’re looking for? Many may have even found good wives at a young age, but how many actually got to live happily with them? Those men used to be away from home for months at a time. Naval men still are today. And many weren’t lucky enough even to return home. If we look through the annals of history, how many men have been burned, shot, sliced, blown apart or cut down before they even reached the age of 20? How many men crawled through coal mines for 10 hours a day in order to fulfil their own duties to their families? Even if they had good wives (and that’s a big if), do you think their lives were really all cosy and cushy?

Even if I think to the situation amidst the comforts of the modern day, I know many men that have wanted the kind of relationships that I’ve also wanted, and it has taken them to very bad places. Off of the top of my head, I could name a dozen men who met someone, even when they were young, and now she has the kids, is still taking his money, and the two can hardly speak to each-other… at a superficial level, I can see people around me dating and marrying, and many do indeed seem to go well… but how many – really – end in that kind of God-focused harmony that I am looking for? I’m no mathematician, but I think the proportions are pretty thin.

Even if I think to my own social circles within The Church… I know men who have started marriages relatively young, only for those marriages to end in some brutal way… I know men who would say to me “pfft, you felt a bit of heart-ache for a week… try marrying someone who you thought was great, only for her to take everything you have, be 10 years older and now have to live alone, wondering if you will ever see your kids again!”

Still, the little voice in the chest complains “but I want it now! What about me! Everyone else might have it hard, but what about me!”

Pride really is insidious. And just as far as it is insidious, it is also pathetic. I think that if I could stand under the eyes of heaven and at the feet of all of my ancestors, the response may well be:

“Have Faith. Be Grateful. And even if you never breathe a word, even if it's only in your heart... Don't. Be. Whiney.”

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